Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cliff dwellers"

See other formats


University of California Berkeley 


Cliff Dwellers 

'. ; 

. Jay Smith^Exploring Compenv 






to acknowledge the many courtesies extended to 
the Cliff-Dwellers Exhibit by Prof. F. W. PUT 
NAM, Chief of Department of Ethnology, W. 
C. E.; the valuable assistance of MR. FRANK 
HAMILTON CUSHING, in describing and iden 
tifying specimens, and the services of Mr. W 
K. WETHERILL and his sons, as well as 
those of ]\fR. CHARLES C. MASON, for their 
pioneer work in exploring the Mancos region. 



An extinct race, leaving no history by which modern 
investigators may arrive at a definite knowledge of the age in 
which they lived, or their pursuits, the " Cliff Dwellers " form 
an interesting and puzzling subject of conjecture for ethnol 
ogists, fascinating for its very illusiveness. 

They are the earliest examples of civilization on the 
American continent, contemporary with the ancient Cave Dwell 
ers of Europe and Lake Dwellers of Switzerland, and are by 
far the most highly civilized representatives of the " Stone Age," 
antedating the Aztecs and the Toltecs, and exhibiting almost as 
high a degree of civilization. 

The time at which, they lived has been variously fixed at 
from fifteen hundred to three thousand years ago, but there is 
nothing more definite than conjecture. Some of the ruins have 
trees growing through them, which are doubtless hundreds of 
years old, but how many ages elapsed before those trees sprang 
into life is unknown. They are a mythical race, exhibiting in 
the relics found, rare powers and refined tastes at variance with 
the common idea of aborigines. 





The most perfectly preserved relics are those of the Canon 
of the Colorado, where a succession of villages remain almost 
intact, showing very clearly their method of building, and where 
many valuable remains have been found, which have thrown 
great light upon the lives of this far-distant people. Through 
New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona are scattered villages in a more 
or less perfect state of preservation, but those of Colorado have 
proved of the most value to explorers and investigators. 

Their building is peculiarly advanced for such primitive 
people, balconies and towers, windows and doors showing evi 
dence of an architectural instinct far better developed than in 
many subsequent races. Great stone walls, in some cases as 
much as a hundred feet high, formed almost unsurmountable 
barriers against invading foes, and betray their great ingenuity 
and foresight. Everything is indicative of their having been 
in constant danger from the depredations and invasion of some, 
to us unknown, enemies, as they built no stairs, cut no steps, 
simply hollowed out slight foot and hand holds, by means of 
which and ladders they ascended and descended to their dwell 
ings. The walls were strongly built of stones, cemented 
together, and in some cases balconies made of logs and covered 
with bark and adobe projected over the cliffs. The doors were 
odd "T" shaped openings so built to admit easy entrance to 
the large carrying paniers in which all their provisions were 
brought to their homes. The living rooms are in most cases 
circular, with a low stone seat running about the sides, fitted 
with hollowed-out stone closets, and having fire-places in the 
center. Under separate ledges of rock are small, unlighted rooms 
where grain was stored. 

From bones and mummies found in the ruins it is proved 
that they were a large, well-developed race, fully equal in size 



to the men of to-day. The heads were well formed, and 
denote a more than ordinary degree of intelligence, with rather 
refined faces, fair skin, and fine hair, often light and totally 
different from most of the modern Indian races now known, 
excepting, perhaps, the Zuni Puehlo Indians the most remark 
able living representatives of the native tribes of America, of 
whom they are claimed to be, and that, with great possibility, 
the direct ancestors. Their homes were fortresses, where they 
lived secure and tilled a living from the rich soil of the table 
lands above them. Corn, beans, pumpkin and squash seeds 
found in the houses show their chief articles of food, while 
the many implements used and their granaries indicate their 
agricultural spirit. They had water reservoirs and irrigating 
canals, crude but clever provision against the dry climate of the 
country which requires heavy irrigation to perform the duty of 
rains in other locations. 

Though undoubtedly agriculturally inclined they cultivated 
only small gardens, yielding sufficient sustenance for absolute 
necessity. Probably their time was too fully taken up in defend 
ing themselves against their enemies to admit of their engaging 
in extensive out-door work, and with their primitive implements 
it was impossible to cultivate a great amount of ground. It 
must have been a great hardship for them to live in their 
almost inaccessible homes, and farm the land above them, 
necessitating carrying all implements and products up and 
down the steep cliffs. 

Among their products was wild cotton, and this they wove 
into cloth which they used for clothing and wrappings for their 
dead. They dressed in coarse garments of yucca fibre, woven 
together with feathers and hair, and encased their feet in rough, 
sandals also made from yucca, bound with a stout twine made of 


the twisted fibre. About their necks they wore ornaments ever 
dear to the primitive heart, made of turkey bones, shells, and 
small smooth pebbles, drilled through and strung together with 
fibre. Some of their sandals were artistically woven in delicate 
raised piitterns and in different colors; a most admirable product 
of patience and handiwork when the coarseness of the material is 
kept in mind. They carried their babies on their backs, strapped 
to a baby-board similar to the ones now used among certain 
tribes, made of bent wood, woven across with yucca fibre. 

Their axes were of stone with edges of sufficient sharpness 
for felling trees, bound about with flexible wood, twisted to form 
the handle, but almost as indispensable were the paddles and 
knee-boards used in beating and rolling the ever necessary yucca. 

They ate with stone knives, and spoons made of bone, and 
cooked their food in earthen vessels, which they made by twisting 
a small roll of wet clay round and round in coils, then pinching 
it down and shaping it into large vessels. They manufactured 
other pottery in the shape of drinking cups, vases, and lamps, 
some of them highly decorated in red and black, most of the 
patterns being geometrical. A few bowls bear figure designs of 
men and animals, but nothing which would throw any light upon 
the characters or pursuits of the people, being merely roughly 
drawn pictures. 

They used needles of bone and thread of yucca fibre and 
cotton, darned their clothing and mended their sandals in a very 
civilized fashion. 

They were not a warlike people their fighting was simply 
done in defense. Arrows of reed, with hard wood or flint 
points with strong bows of sinew, were their chief implements, 
of war, and the small number of these found is indicative of 
their naturally quiet and peaceable natures, which only rose up 







to defend themselves against the attacks of thsir foes. Their 
dead were buried in stone chambers, tightly sealed and protected 
from the air. The bodies were first wrapped in skin or coarse 
cotton cloth, outside was a wrapping of feather cloth, then mat 
ting, and lastly a binding of reeds. Buried, as they were, in 
the peculiarly dry earth and rarified air of Colorado, the bodies 
are in a more perfect state of preservation than most mummies, 
and give the strongest insight into the personality of this long- 
vanished people. How and why, they became extinct is a puzzle 
to all explorers. That they were quite a numerous race is evi 
dent from the great size and number of their buildings, which 
could only have been built by many hands. Some scientists 
advance the theory that some dreadful plague broke out among 
them, totally destroying the whole nation, but there is little if 
any proof to substantiate this belief. Others think that an 
opposing horde of invaders swept down upon them. It is, 
however, advanced, with much to prove this theory, that the 
remains of decimated bands found safety in emigration and 
have become, under the influence of time, climate, and different 
surroundings, the Zuni Pueblo Indians of to-day. 










. AT THE . 


The exhibition of this collection is one of the first success 
ful attempts ever made in bringing within the easy understanding 
of the visitor one of the most interesting branches of archaeology. 

Anthropology and its allied sciences have been heretofore 
considered the domain of the scholar and scientist, and but few 
persons have attempted to study the fascinating history of the 
primitive man, his habits, his handiwork, his life. 




in the study of the Cliff Dwellers we find a special interest, 
as they represent, no doubt, the earliest civilization of the Ameri 
can continent. 

The preparation of the Cliff Dwellers Exhibit was under 
taken nearly two years ago by the H. Jay Smith Exploring 
Company. Careful survey of the caiions of Colorado and Utah 
and the collection of specimens from the ruins was carried on 
with success for several months and the construction of the 
building and arrangement of the exhibit required a long time 
and the untiring labors of a skilled company of artists. 

The outside of the building represents Battle Rock Mount- 
.ain, a weird and solitary landmark in the desert of South 
western Colorado. 

The representation of this mysterious and legendary rock 
has been admitted to be an excellent selection for the building to 
contain the priceless mementos of a long vanished race. 

Upon entering the gateway made to represent one of the 
dwellings of the cliffs, one finds himself in the celebrated Mancos 
Canon; rocks covered with the yucca plant and the sage-brush 
rise on both sides to the height of seventy feet, and in the recesses 
of the tumbling sandstone are reproduced on a scale of one-tenth, 
the most picturesque ruins bearing the greatest archceologic 
interest. Cliff Palace, which once harbored over twelve hundred 
inhabitants, is reproduced on the left with its towers and build 
ings in ruins, just as they were found by the exploring party on 
its last visit to the canon where photographs, measurements, and 
diagrams were made of all the buildings to be reproduced here. 
On the right, Square Tower House rises to the height of ten 
superposed stories of dwellings, while on the opposite side of the 
Canon Balcony House is to be found, exhibiting one of the rare 
and fast disappearing examples of the cedar balconies to be found 





in the region. Further on is High House, one of the most 
inaccessible refuges of the persecuted Cliff Dweller. 

In an artificial underground cave panoramic paintings of 
Ruin Castle, Spruce Tree House, Long House, She House, and 
Cliff Palace may be seen. These excellent canvasses, the work 
of a young artist, who joined the party and made careful sketches 
on the spot, add great interest to the collection. Specially con 
trived means of lighting add much to the reality of the scenes 
depicted and give to the visitor a fair idea of the rarified and 
clear atmosphere of Colorado. 

Coming out of the cave, "estufas" and living rooms are 
reproduced in exact size, and show the material, the construction 
of the dwellings, assembly rooms, kitchens, graves, and granaries. 
Beyond is the museum, where no pains have been spared to 
arrange and exhibit upward of two thousand specimens bearing 
directly upon the subject. "She," one of the first and best 
preserved mummies found in the grave of the ruin called 
afterward the She House is the centre of a rare and complete 
collection of mummies. This department comprises mummies of 
men, women, children, skulls and hair, burial robes, and wrappings. 

The pottery exhibit is most complete, and comprises all that 
could be desired from very large and beautiful specimens of 
the coil-ware, used for cooking, to the decorated vessels, used 
for drinking or storing grain; some of the vessels are most 
ornate. On one vase a Cliff Dweller is seen hunting deer with 
bow and arrows; on a drinking vessel the picture of a dancing 
figure is represented, while on another turkeys ornament the 
handle of a drinking cup. The interior of many vases are 
decorated with geometrical patterns circles, squares, and lines 
wreathes of leaves in black and red. In one case a small jug 
is inlaid with square pieces of mother pearl. 



Their agricultural pursuits are represented by numerous 
packages of seeds, beans, pumpkins and squashes, corn and corn 
cobs, planting, sticks, and other implements. 

Their knowledge of textile weaving is shown by pieces 
of a loom, wild-cotton cloth of great fineness cloth, woven 
from the fibre of the yucca plant, and pieces of garments, 
probably used as leggings, made of Yucca fiber interwoven 
with human hair; a piece of a burial robe shows a delicate 
weaving of yucca colored in yellow, black, and probably white; 
proving that in weaving, as well as in the art of the potter, 
they had reached a certain knowledge of decoration and 
arrangement of color. 

The basket-making is also largely represented and shows 
great dexterity in handling the rough fibre of the yucca. Over 
ninety pairs of sandals show the diversity of manufacture from' 
the rough sand shoe made of the full leaf of the yucca, to 
finely woven and decorated sandals. 

The remains of a ceremonial head-band prove that they 
had religious rites of some nature, while a gaming-stick, 
similar to the one used in the "Pachisi" game of India, and 
the " Ta-sho-li-w6 " of the Zunis, show that gambling was not 
unknown to them. 

Several fine specimens of feather-cloth and buckskin gar 
ments denote their fondness for ease and comfort, and the 
rare stone axes, bows, arrows, and sling-shots found give 
additional proof to their peaceful pursuits and may also give 
a cue to the mysterious disappearance of this once great nation, 
which was possibly annihilated by more warlike tribes sur 
rounding it. 



La Monte- O'DonneU Co., Printers, Chicago 

12 7601